Courageous Grace

Military 0265

“Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

I wrote last time about battlefield etiquette. Particularly, how to properly care for the wounded among us on the spiritual battlefield.

This takes courage.

It’s easy to show grace to someone who has been hurt by someone else or by their circumstances.

But it’s much harder to show grace to someone in the throes of addiction or suffering the consequences of their own poor choices.

First, we must get past our initial ‘religious’ instinct to condemn and distance ourselves.

Then comes the hard part – facing all of those who insist on clinging to that religious instinct. You see, not everyone manages (or even desires) to work past that initial reaction. Some people are perfectly happy in their religious reaction.

Often, whether we admit it aloud or not, we fear the condemnation of these people if they see us helping a broken person.

What rumors will start about me? Will I become guilty by association? Will the religious lot suddenly put me in the ‘condemnation box’ with them because I am coming to their side?

The truth is none of these things matter.

The words in Joshua 1:9 were spoken by God to a man who was about to venture into a foreign land and step onto many physical battlefields.  If you look through the entire quote (verses 2-9) you will see that God used the term “be strong and courageous” three times (vv 6, 7, 9).

God knew that when Joshua led the armies of Israel out onto that battlefield, he was going to be hit all sorts of opposition.  Not only was he going to face sword-wielding adversaries from outside his camp, he was also going to have to deal with criticism-wielding antagonists from within.

God wanted to be sure he knew that if he was doing what God expected of him, he could hold his head up and know God was beside him.

It’s the same for us.  We may not be facing savage blood-thirsty warriors who want to split our heads wide open. But we sometimes face assailants who are trying to get into our heads and maybe even soil our reputations – intentionally or unintentionally.

If you are loving people the way God wants you to, though, know that “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” and because of that you can be “strong and courageous.”

Next time I’m going to write a little more about how God has our back, and why we can confidently draw courage through our trust in Him.  But for now, let me leave you with a quote from Joe Dallas:

“Courage is not an absence of fear; instead, it is a willingness to do the very thing you are afraid of.”

So don’t be afraid to step out there and help the wounded. Be courageous. He has your back.

Advertisements

Proper Care of the Wounded

Civil War 014This life is lived on a battlefield. And as with any physical battlefield, our spiritual battlefield includes punches and counter-punches, strategy and happenstance, really solid decisions and really lousy decisions.

And the result of the lousy decisions, the unexpected counter-punches, or the happenstance (happenstance from our perspective mind you, because nothing surprises God), is often wounding. Wounding that affects both good warriors and bad warriors. Wounding that is very often self-inflicted.

As part of the body of Christ, we have an obligation to care for these wounded and do everything we can to get them to safety and help them heal.

No warrior deserves to be left to bleed out on the spiritual battlefield.

Yet so often, that’s exactly what we do.

We consider their sin too atrocious, or their struggle too embarrassing to be associated with, or their spiritual/emotional condition too untouchable.

And so we act like the priest and the Levite who turned a blind eye to the dying man, instead of the Samaritan who stopped to lend aid (see Luke 10:30-35).

And that’s at best.

At worst, we kick them while they’re down, wag our heads in disgust, and go off to speculate about them and their brokenness in the comfy circles of the mask-wearing gossips. You know, those circles where the real goal is to keep the focus on the one whose mask has slipped so as to avoid anyone noticing what is behind our own mask.

That’s not the way Jesus’ church is supposed to act.

How many times did Jesus Himself kick someone who was down? Never. If it can be said that He kicked anyone, it was the ones who were standing upright in a spirit of arrogance and pride (which incidentally were the ones who were consistently kicking or neglecting the wounded).

Let’s take a page from His playbook.

He treated the adulterous with love and compassion – why can’t we do the same with the sexually broken?

He embraced the tax cheats and extortionists and inspired them to make positive change – why can’t we do likewise for those caught in the downward spirals of substance abuse?

He took a few hot-headed sailors (who probably had the demeanor and vocabularies to match) and empowered them to change the world – why can’t we show grace to those in our midst who might not fit our idea of ‘acceptable church people’?

This isn’t to say everything is okay. Sexual brokenness, substance abuse, greed, abusive tempers, etc. do not allow anyone to reach their full potential. And there is so much damage done to innocent people when such things go unchecked. Cycles of brokenness have to be addressed and personal change (sometimes drastic personal change) must be pursued.

But if a warrior is lying wounded in a pool of his or her own blood, and is desiring restoration and wholeness…neither criticism nor desertion are what they need.

Love them like Jesus. Bind their wounds. Stay at their side. And see what happens.

Chances are, you’ll witness a miraculously changed life.

Who Needs Church?

 

 

Image

 

“…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…” – Hebrews 10:25

Unfortunately, one of the things today’s church excels at is causing pain. As someone who has experienced wounding from both sides, I truly believe it’s not intentional in most cases. It’s usually a matter of trying to figure out where to draw the line between grace and truth. And there’s not a person in the church who hasn’t at one time or another drawn that line a little off-center. I look back at some of the judgment calls I have made as a Christian toward others and I cringe at the thought of it. I know many others would say the same. Some don’t cringe at all, but convince themselves and others that they made the right judgment – and, on some occasions, they did. Either way, the reality is someone walks away hurt.

It’s a tragedy that the body of Christ can be so disenfranchising toward the same people that God loves so dearly.

But don’t give up on God just because His people have made mistakes. Whether it was an honest mistake or a flagrant disregard, I guarantee you that God never intended for you to be condemned, humiliated or ignored. That’s not the way He operates.

You see, the church’s main problem is that it’s full of people. And as in any other setting, when you get people together things can go wrong. Different viewpoints, competing priorities, varied backgrounds and experience, mixed in with a touch of selfishness, and you have a recipe for hurt.

Can the people in the church be a bunch of hypocrites? Absolutely.

But wait, let me ask another question:

Can the people outside of the church be a bunch of hypocrites? Absolutely.

People are no different whatever their purpose or surroundings. The bar is set a little higher for people gathered in Jesus’ name, as it should be. But let’s lose the illusion that the church has a lock on hypocritical attitudes. Hypocrisy is a human flaw, not exclusively a Christian one. In fact, often the very people that judge the church for being a bunch of hypocrites are being quite hypocritical themselves.

The church indeed has faults. And yes it should be held to a higher standard. But it shouldn’t be held to an impossible standard. Life is about decisions, and sometimes we’ll display poor judgment, and people will be wounded.

When we’re on the receiving end of the wounding, we should try to understand – though moving on still may be the prudent choice. Trying to be understanding doesn’t mean exposing yourself to more hurt. Sometimes you forgive, and then you dust off your feet and move on.

When we’re on the business end of the wounding, we should seek reconciliation with the one we hurt. Often the best balm of healing is the apology and caring embrace of the one who did the wounding.

But through it all, remember God still loves every one of us more than we can ever know. And He still desires for His people to come together for encouragement and for worship and for prayer and for learning. The benefits far outweigh the risks.

So be part of a local church. It may take a few visits and false starts to find the right one, but it’s out there. Wherever you are, wherever you’ve been, don’t abandon the church. Allow God to embrace you through it.